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A Pagan Sacrifice
Garofalo
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A young man pours red wine from an amphora onto the goat’s head on the altar; a young woman carries an upside-down torch, while an old woman balances a basket of pears, apples and grapes on her head. For many years the subject of this painting by Garofalo was believed to be a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the gods for the gifts of the fruit-bearing earth. Actually, it represents an ancient funeral.

The painting is based on an illustration that appears in a famous and quite strange antiquarian romance by Francesco Colonna called the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, published in Venice in 1499. In the part of the book relating to this illustration, Colonna describes the cemetery of those who died for love. All the figures in Garofalo’s painting correspond to those in the woodcut illustration, although none are copied exactly.

Key facts
Artist Garofalo
Artist dates about 1481 - 1559
Full title A Pagan Sacrifice
Date made 1526
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 128.3 x 185.4 cm
Inscription summary Dated
Acquisition credit Mond Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG3928
Location in Gallery Room 10
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